The Loneliness of Motherhood

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

Motherhood can be a lonely, lonely thing. Which is strange, isn’t it, because mothers are almost never alone.

In the age of social media, the irony of lonely while surrounded by people, wanting companionship while feeling touched out, is being shared by parents in droves. Articles, tweets, and a few Instagram pictures are followed by hashtags about being tired or touched out or being the “bad” mom who forgot today was crazy hair day at school. Or it’s the article or post that touches lightly on the subject of postpartum depression, never during, but always after.

Usually, these glimpses provide a place for other mothers to tentatively reach out and give tiny snippets of their own stories. Solidarity, my sisters! Or, how brave to post such honest things! Or it’s just a way to laugh at the reality.

And laugh we must because sometimes this loneliness is more than a portion of motherhood. Sometimes it’s a weight, it’s stifling, it’s smothering.

Let’s laugh to keep from crying.

Motherhood can be lonely. But why?

I wonder if it’s because we’re pack creatures, social animals that really do need a village. Maybe it’s not children that need a village to raise them, but mothers that need a village to support them.

Today, motherhood is endless nights of half-assed sleep because lying down means running down the endless list of things that were done, things that were forgotten, and things that need doing. It’s nights debating whether an earlier bedtime for self should occur, or if the book, the show, the wine, or the game is worth a few less hours of sleep. And this has to be debated because at this point she probably just wants one single freaking hour of time alone, an hour to read or drink wine or peruse Instagram or just not be touched. But, of course, regardless, the next day will start early, too early, because of all the prep that has to happen before the day even begins.

Time to wake up and teeth and wash faces and find matching (sort of) clothes. Yes, maybe pjs that pass for clothes can suffice for daycare, but they definitely can’t be the pjs with smeared peanut butter and you definitely can’t pair it with a Halloween mask. Please eat breakfast, but make sure your teeth are brushed. Where’s your book bag. Did I brush my hair? My own teeth? I forgot to finish my makeup, but at least I drank my coffee. It’s fine, we’re late, let’s go!

Motherhood is giving up every first sip and every last bite. This is such a truth that it’s become a joke. How many memes and posts and videos and cartoons have you seen with moms hiding in broom closets or bathrooms just so they can scarf down a chocolate bar without guilt (or maybe with guilt, but the chocolate helps)?

Motherhood is a love that’s so big and strong and overwhelming, that it gives you strength on the days that the little ones test your patience. It’s a love that overpowers the basic survival instinct. I know without even thinking about it, I would give my life for any one of my children, no hesitation. I’d step in front of a car, a train, whatever.

And yet.

Can I please just finish one piece of pie without a little tiny food gremlin coming over and sticking toddler sized fingers into the crust? Please.

Motherhood is lonely in the weirdest sense because you’re constantly surrounded by people who respect almost no boundaries.

Motherhood has you touched out and craving people, frazzled and craving adult talk, tired and craving alone time.

And no one warns you! No one warns you about the days that feel endless, just about the years that pass quickly. No one warns you that there will be days that you just want to sitforonegoddamnminute without someone using your body as a jungle gym. No one warns you that motherhood is exhausting because there’s no real start time, but there’s definitely no end, no sick days, no PTO, no pause.

And so when all these feelings hit, you just feel lonely and upset that you’re probably the world’s worst mother, because you’re not fawning over your child every second of every day. It feels lonely because most of the emotions you feel throughout the course of the day are hard to pinpoint and hard to explain. It feels lonely because how many times can you vent about the same thing? It feels lonely because the baby you were pining for, dreaming about, love so much, wanted so much, maybe after a loss, maybe after years of trying, maybe after an adoption process, etc, etc, etc….maybe after all that, they’re still just a child and you’re just a mother who is like every other child-mother combination. You’re still just human and you need breaks, but motherhood never seems to break.

But when cries for help sound like complaints and the best people can say is, “Babies don’t keep!” It’s not very surprising that it’s lonely.

Currently, with a raging pandemic, this loneliness can hit even harder, especially for new moms who may not have the normal support that would have been provided otherwise.

Motherhood is lonely. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. And it’s okay to vent. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to say you’re overwhelmed. It’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to reach out for help, personal or professional.

We need to know it’s common to feel this way and that professional help is a viable option.

Vent away. And if you have no one to vent to, feel free to shoot me a line. Sometimes talking, writing, helps.

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